BY PAUL DAUGHERTY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
AUGUSTA, Ga. - He played alone all day, unless you count the intangibles. Tiger Woods had ended the game Saturday; Sunday was for history and perceptions and predictions.
And for Charlie Sifford and Ted Rhodes and all those of color who had been denied a chance at this day;
And for Lee Elder, the first African-American to play the Masters, 22 years ago. ''I said a little prayer'' coming up the 18th fairway Sunday, Woods said, ''(of) thanks to those guys.''
And for Earl Woods and Tida Woods, whose mixed marriage - he predominantly black, she Asian - produced a son whose rich ethnic background could make all of us feel good about Tiger's first Masters championship;
And for the guys in the scoreboard tower bestride the 18th fairway, who were getting nervous the closer Tiger edged to Masters immortality.
''What's the biggest red number you got?'' a man wondered from below.
''Twenty-three,'' the scorekeeper said, and he damned near needed it;
And for the game of golf, too long derided for its mercenaries and ''clones'', and forever waiting for its next Nicklaus. Do we have him now?
Who else was this for? What else could be served? This was not just about winning a sporting championship. The best ones never are. They're a little more complicated than that, a little richer experience.
Tiger Woods shot 18-under par, a record, to win the Masters at age 21, also a record, needing just 200 strokes to finish the last 54 holes, another record.
This puts cold, hard testimony to what occurred at Augusta National Golf Club Thursday to Sunday. The rest is yet to be judged. It was a good, amazing and sweet thing Woods did here. For every reason you could imagine.
At some point this weekend, Woods stopped chasing history and started inventing it.
Maybe it was the back-nine 30 on Thursday that did it, a stone-cold tribute to Woods' courage. Maybe it was his 65 Saturday, when his lead was just three shots.
Woods brought to this Masters a pedigreed game, having won three of his first nine pro events. What showed more was a steel will. Someone asked Woods his thoughts as he climbed the 18th green Sunday, floated by cheers.
''Boy, do I have a tough putt,'' Woods said. ''My focus never left me. That's what I'm trying to say.''
He had a plan to win Sunday. It sounded like Jack Nicklaus' time-honored plan. Nicklaus has won six Masters. Good plan.
''Never make a bogey, execute, be patient, make birdies when I have a chance,'' Woods said.
He sweated Amen Corner (holes 11-13) even with a nine-shot lead. ''I had to get through at even par. You never know what can happen on water holes.''
Woods birdied 11 and 13. By then, his gallery stretched from tee to green.
The past and future
Up next to the putting green, halfway between the clubhouse, the 18th green and history, Earl Woods sat watching his son on a TV monitor. Two months ago, he had bypass surgery.
I remember talking to him here two years ago, along the 9th fairway. Tiger was 19, in his first Masters, and very far away from who he is now.
''He'll win this thing soon enough,'' Earl said then.
After Tiger left the 17th Sunday, Earl rose slowly and made the walk to the scorer's tent behind No. 18, to participate in history.
Twenty years from now, or 30, this is how we'll recall this most significant of all Masters. History.
All week, we groped for superlatives, for comparisons.
Nicklaus in 1965? In 1972? Lee Elder in 1975? Sometimes, an accomplishment is so singular, it needs no partners.
Here is all that needs to be said:
There has never been another Masters like this one. And there never will be.
Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty welcomes your comments at 768-8454.